After court decision, COAH reemerges as a campaign issue

A court decision yesterday brought the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) back into the race for governor.

A three member appeals panel yesterday ruled that, despite meeting its COAH obligations, Eastampton could not deny the nonprofit group Homes of Hope an exception to build multi-unit housing in an area designated for single family homes.

“Yesterday’s ruling is the latest blow to our struggling towns and residents already overwhelmed by skyrocketing property taxes, diminished services and heightened urban sprawl,” said Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie in a statement. “Enough is enough – placing more onerous requirements on our towns is a lazy and sloppy approach to solving our affordable housing problem and only creates further problems at the local level.”

Christie asked his main opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine, to denounce the ruling and call a special legislative session “so we can overturn this damaging decision and fix this problem before even more towns and New Jerseyans pay the price.”

Independent gubernatorial candidate Christopher Daggett also denounced the decision, saying it was contrary to the Mount Laurel decisions of decades past, which laid the groundwork for the creation of COAH. He also framed it as a threat to open space preservation.

“We recognize this is a highly emotional issue, but we must calmly explore whether the current facts and economic climate render past affordable housing assumptions no longer valid,’’ he said.

COAH was a hot issue in the Republican gubernatorial primary, during which the five candidates tried to outdo each other in the ways they would eliminate or, in Christie’s words, “gut” the program. But it disappeared from campaign rhetoric after the June 2 primary.

The Sierra Club also chimed in, echoing the criticism of Daggett, who the group endorsed earlier this month.

“This decision declares open season on local towns and their zoning,” said Jeff Tittel, the group’s New Jersey director.

After court decision, COAH reemerges as a campaign issue